Most Indigo readers will be aware that the Government’s influential Careers Strategy expired in December 2020. While we await confirmation on whether a replacement Careers Strategy will in time be published, the Department for Education has published updated Statutory Guidance to help schools and colleges understand their duties with regard to the provision of careers education and guidance. This article offers a brief overview of the salient points in the latest version of this important document.
Unlike previous iterations of the Statutory Guidance, the July 2021 document now covers the responsibilities of both schools and colleges, whereas previously there was separate Statutory Guidance for each. This has the benefit of streamlining information on career guidance responsibilities for all schools and post-16 further education to avoid confusion.
The Baker Clause
The updated guidance places far more emphasis on the Baker Clause (Section 42B of the Education Act 1997) than previous versions. It makes schools’ and colleges’ responsibilities very clear with regard to facilitating access for their students to all post-16 options, including apprenticeships and technical options such as T levels:
‘Schools must open their doors to other education and training providers, in line with their statutory responsibilities under the “Baker Clause”, putting in place a range of opportunities for providers of technical education and apprenticeships to talk to all year 8 to 13 pupils about their education or training offer. This is vital to ensure that all pupils are aware of the benefits of apprenticeships, T levels and other approved technical education qualifications and can consider them, alongside academic options, when making decisions about their next steps.’
For the avoidance of any confusion, the document also states that ‘schools and colleges must explain technical education routes alongside academic routes and should not attempt to promote HE as a better or more favourable route than FE or apprenticeships’. This underlines the vital importance of impartiality in delivering career education and guidance and the need to place students’ best interests at the heart of the career guidance process above any other considerations.
Presumably in response to anecdotal evidence that not all schools were implementing the Baker Clause fully, the new guidance has been strengthened to make it clear that Ofsted must now report on career guidance provision in every inspection report, and explains what this will mean for inspection reports going forward:
‘Ofsted is legally required to comment, in an inspection report, on the careers guidance provided at colleges to 16- to- 18-year-olds and students aged up to 25 with an education, health and care plan […] Ofsted has updated its school inspection handbook to strengthen the focus on careers guidance, including by clarifying that inspectors will always report where a school falls short of the requirements of the provider access legislation (“Baker Clause”), as well as considering how it affects a school’s inspection grade.’
Now that failure to allow impartial access to the full range of education and training providers could have a detrimental impact on schools’ grading, it behoves careers leaders and school senior leadership teams to ensure that career guidance is central, not peripheral, to the curriculum, and is delivered impartially with the best interests of students.
The role of SLT and governors
As vital as careers leaders are to the delivery of careers education and guidance in schools and colleges, they cannot carry this responsibility alone. The new Statutory Guidance recognises that all careers leaders need the full support of their senior leadership team in order to carry out their responsibilities effectively:
‘Schools and colleges are expected to appoint a Careers Leader who has the skills, commitment and backing from their senior leadership team, including protected time that enables the Careers Leader to carry out the role effectively. Schools and colleges must name the Careers Leader and publish their contact details on their website.’
The emphasis on careers leaders needing sufficient time for the fulfilment of their role is important. As should be clear from the level of detail on the complex responsibilities undertaken by careers leaders in this 44-page document, this is not a role that can be undertaken in just a few hours per week. As the Careers and Enterprise Company’s guide Understanding the role of the Careers Leader states:
‘In order to be effective, Careers Leaders require a substantial allocation of time (measured in days rather than periods per week). Ideally, this is supported by additional administrative support (a Careers Administrator) to assist with more routine tasks, such as maintaining the careers information resources, booking appointments for careers interviews, arranging information evenings and dealing with the paperwork associated with employer encounters and experiences of work.’
Each school or college’s SLT needs to have a clear understanding of the amount of work involved in delivering effective Careers Leadership, as well as the potential implications for Osfted inspections if this is not resourced adequately.
More time for personal guidance
The Statutory Guidance states that schools and colleges must ensure that access to a careers adviser trained to Level 6 is available when needed, but now contains clearer advice about the time that should be allocated to this important aspect of the guidance process. Citing research published by the Gatsby Foundation, the guidance emphasises that senior leaders need to ensure that careers advisers have sufficient time to deliver guidance to a high standard, recommending that at least 45 minutes is allocated to each guidance interview. The need for this is supported by a HECSU-funded study published in 2018, which found that 45 minutes allows sufficient time exploration of the student’s needs and their options, as well as adequate action planning time.
Wider sources of support
This version of the Statutory Guidance provides details of the additional support offered by organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, Careers Hubs, the National Careers Service, and Jobcentre Plus. For instance, the Careers and Enterprise Company’s Enterprise Adviser Network can help schools set up meaningful encounters with the world of work, while Jobcentre Plus school advisers can work with students that schools and colleges have identified as being at risk of leaving without entering further education, training, or work. All of these sources of support are useful supplements to the roles of the careers leader and careers adviser but do not replace them. For instance, the guidance states that the National Careers Service can ‘supplement support available to students through the school or college, particularly outside of term time’, and thus is not intended as a replacement for school or college-based support.
The new Statutory Guidance for Careers provides further evidence that the Government is serious about maintaining high quality career education and guidance in schools and colleges, as described by the Gatsby Benchmarks. There is more detail than ever before on what makes for high quality, effective careers leadership, the support available to careers leaders, and the enhanced role of Ofsted in monitoring school- and college-based career guidance. It is required reading for careers leaders, careers advisers, and school and college senior leadership teams.
Careers and Enterprise Company, ‘Understanding the role of the Careers Leader’ (London: The Careers and Enterprise Company, 2018).
Department for Education, ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers: Statutory guidance for schools and guidance for further education colleges and sixth form colleges’ (July 2021).
Ofsted, ‘School inspection handbook’ (May 2019). Available at: School inspection handbook – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) (Accessed: 27.09.2021)
The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, ‘Personal guidance in careers: Summary of research 2019-2020’ (London: The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, 2021).
Roísín Reid, Emily, ‘Length matters! Exploratory research into the impact the shortening of guidance appointments is having on practice’ (HECSU, 2018).
 Department for Education, ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers: Statutory guidance for schools and guidance for further education colleges and sixth form colleges’ (July 2021), 7.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 10.
 Careers and Enterprise Company, ‘Understanding the role of the Careers Leader’ (London: The Careers and Enterprise Company, 2018), 15.
 Statutory Guidance, 38 (footnote).
 Ibid., 24.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 11.
Oliver Jenkin is a Career Development Consultant at CSW Group with 11 years’ experience helping young people bring about positive changes in their educational and working lives. Oliver is a registered member of the Career Development Institute.